Rabbi Marc Gellman writes about religion for Newsday.
I am deep in prayer and preparation for the Jewish High Holy Days that begin with the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah tomorrow evening (all Jewish holy days begin the sundown before the day of the holiday). This is followed in 10 days by Yom Kippur, the day of fasting and repentance, beginning at sundown on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Let me do my work with you first.
I ask your forgiveness, dear readers, for all my careless words and phrases which have distorted the word of God or the teachings of other faiths, or have hurt or confused you in any way. God is not through with me yet.
I also forgive you for all those moments when what you thought you read is not what I wrote, nor what I meant, and so on those occasions, which I hope were rare, you did not have the great pleasure of understanding me.
May all my Jewish readers and their families enjoy a New Year of health and happiness, and may the healing of our broken world begin with each and every one of us. To my non-Jewish readers, God bless you and keep you, and may we find our way together and apart up the paths we've chosen on the same mountain.
Not quite cursing
My recent column inviting you to share with me your own spiritually acceptable curse words that would free us from violating one of the Big Ten Commandments is still generating wonderful responses. Here are some more clean curses:
--A., a teacher, from Smithtown, used to tell her fifth-grade class not to take the name of the Lord in vain. They substituted "cheese and rice" instead. Also, "pasta fazool" sounds dirty enough.
--T. from West Islip: W.C. Fields said it best. He used "Godfrey Daniel," and "Great Mother of Pearl" whenever he was provoked in film.
--J. wrote: I don't like to curse, so whenever something went wrong and I needed to "express" myself, I would yell out "Oh sugarplumper!" I don't know where I got that from, but it made me feel better, my children would laugh and whatever the situation was would become less serious. My children are now grown up, and this has become a family joke that has eased a few tense moments.
--N. wrote: When in an angered state, I try to use Dagwood Bumstead's "Geez Louise." It's safe enough for me.
--H. noted: One of my favorite curse words is "sonofabiscuiteater!" It was very satisfying when I slammed the car door on my hand.
--J. from Great Neck: My mother's favorite clean curse was, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" uttered loudly when she was exasperated. I've also heard, "Jesus H. Christmas!" but I don't know where that one originated. You can replace saying "Jesus Christ" when you feel the need to curse with "Cheese and Crackers!" It mimics the Lord's name just enough to feel good, and it rolls off the tongue. But if you're really in a state of excited disbelief, you can always use the phrase from the Oreo commercials: "Shut the front door!"
--G. from Archer Lodge, N.C.: Your recent column mentioning profanity brought back memories of a favorite tale. It concerns a teamster back in the 1800s who turned the air blue cursing his mule team. A local preacher, hearing his tirade, scolded him, and was informed by the teamster that this was the only language the mules understood. The preacher proposed a wager: a Bible vs. a jug of booze if the preacher could get the mules to obey without profanity. The preacher mounted the wagon, slapped the reins and said, "giddyap." The mules just looked at him with amusement, while the teamster said, "Looks like you just lost the bet." The reverend then shouted loudly at the mules, "You sanctified Cherubim, you blasphemous Archangels, giddyap!" The mules immediately proceeded forward, the preacher collected his Bible, and said to the teamster, "You see, it isn't the words; it's the music!"
--From S. in Massapequa Park: My late father claimed to be an atheist, but if he was working on something and hurt himself or had great difficulty he would exclaim, "Jesus Christ!" Later, we would tease him by saying, "Gee, Dad, you say you don't believe in God, yet you're always calling out to him when you're in trouble!" When Dad died, I had a cross put on his gravestone because he was baptized, confirmed and married in the church, and because he was in God's hands.